Epistle: Reflections on Hitler and Osama bin Laden– Retribution AT BEST!
Several years ago, I had an email correspondence with pastor Greg Boyd. I was wrestling with a Christian response to how Christians should answer the questions presented by rulers like Hitler, the brand of revolutionary violence proposed by Osama bin Laden, and the “just wars” and “just violence” that often emerge from the trouble that they propose. I’d like to recall the fruit of that conversation and share some very personal thoughts with all of you as well.
The killing of Osama bin Laden is retribution at best; just like the killing of Hitler would have been had he not committed suicide. Though many Christians (including myself) would consider any act of murder sin, I must admit that I am not naive of the fact that his murder will benefit Western rule, democracy, and that which the West holds to be their most cherished values and philosophical norms. Nor am I naive that the actions of the American military benefit me; because I live in America.
In light of this, I would like to say this briefly, because I find it disturbing that many Christians find the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death to be a moment of celebration when it is anything but:
Just because the killing of a tyrant like Hitler or bin Laden is “just” doesn’t mean followers of Jesus should participate in it, advocate for it, and most definitely not celebrate the murder of them. When they met the edge of the sword that was swung before them, they then chose to swing rather than put their sword (or AK47) down. They then reached their demise because of these patterns of swinging the sword. Those who live by swords die by them is not some morality; its a fallen liturgical reality and a reflection of the depravity of mankind.
This is why Christians are called to:
–A higher standard than “justice.” We are called to love our enemies, do good to them, and serve them; including the Hitlers and bin Ladens of the world.
–In doing this, we bear witness to a kingdom that is “not of this world.”
People always say, “Well, if all Christians did this we’d all be Nazis” or “Well, if all Christians acted this way, Osama would eventually enslave the world to his brand of Islam.” To which I say:
A) You have to trust G-d at some point
B) If all Christians acted like this, there would not be any Nazis since good German Lutherans and Catholics fought in Hitler’s armies.
C) If all Christians obeyed Jesus, there would not have been the centuries of anti-semetism in Prussia/Germany that made the Holocaust possible.
D) If all Christians obeyed Jesus, than it would be likely that some of the violent and corrupt patterns of America– the so called “Christian nation”– would not have provoked bin Laden to believe America was an evil power needing to be destroyed. Such as, acts of imposition on other Arab countries for their oil and stationing a military base in their holy land.
When you swing the sword, it swings in all directions, and when you fail to live peaceably with all people, you begin giving yourselves the excuse to neglect loving your neightbor in order to preserve your interests by any means necessary to preserve them.
What happens all the time is:
–The church fails to be the church which creates
–the “need’ for war and the “need” to resort to murder; which then leads people to
–tell Christians they must join in the war or resort to violence else evil will take over. In other words, we use the failure of the Church to justify the Church continuing to not be the Church.
I say, lets trust G-d to run the world and keep going back to “A”; and do so relentlessly.
WE did not kill Osama bin Ladin; the patterns of violence in which we are bent and in bondage to claimed yet another life the Lord gives unsurpassable worth. This is yet another example of a world held captive to religious hubris; both Islam and the American civil religion alike. This is yet another example of one who lives by swords shall die by them. This is not a happy occasion; this is a time to mourn that we once again fell into the vertigo of a world that does not love their neighbor but instead chooses to embody the patterns by which tragedy keeps its stronghold.
The anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden has created an overwhelming sense of sorrow and anguish in my heart today. It has stolen my joy. I held my son in my arms this morning and wept praying that he might inherit a better world and a better Church where we imagine it possible this better world; a world where we do not celebrate death any longer.